Corrupt persuasion

Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza points out at the Atlantic that celebrities are allowed to tamper with witnesses in order to avoid prosecution for sexual assault.

The aplomb with which Kelly was received recalled the Golden Globes’ celebration of Woody Allen two weeks before. Actress Diane Keaton accepted a lifetime achievement award on the director’s behalf, heedless of recent Vanity Fair articles adding further detail to long-standing allegations that Allen repeatedly molested his seven-year-old daughter with actress Mia Farrow.

Kelly and Allen have successfully relied on two different versions of the same celebrity strategy to escape the possibility of criminal consequences: legalized witness tampering. Our federal witness-tampering statute applies to anyone who “corruptly persuades” a witness to influence or deter communications and testimony. But the line between acceptable and “corrupt” persuasion becomes very fine when the accused is a celebrity.

Maybe it’s for the greater good, eh? We need our celebrities, we love our celebrities, our lives would be shabbier and duller without our celebrities, so if a few people have to put up with not getting justice…oh well. Right?

Not right in my book.

Woody Allen took a different tack [from Michael Jackson]: He used a “frivolous” custody suit, expert witnesses, and a media blitz that reportedly intimidated his daughter and dissuaded Mia Farrow from pressing criminal charges. On August 5, 1992, Dylan told her mother of her molestation. Eight days later Allen filed his custody suit, hiring expert witnesses to discredit his young daughter. Allen’s side portrayed Dylan as a confused fabulist and former partner Farrow as a hysterical, vengeful ex—allegations that anonymous sources relayed to media to generate headlines like “Mia’s Daughter May Have a Reality Problem” despite a gag order.

What a mensch, huh? What a loving father, what a fair and generous ex? What an all-round decent guy?

Allen’s tactics didn’t win him custody or even visitation rights, but his scorched-earth strategy scarred Dylan and deterred Farrow from pressing criminal charges. The custody battle lasted nearly a year. A criminal trial could take even longer and would be yet harder on Dylan and her siblings, especially if their privacy couldn’t be guaranteed. No doubt prospects for a fair criminal trial seemed dim; the challenge of convincing a jury of Allen’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, insurmountable.

Celebrities are particularly effective at discouraging victims and witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement and prosecutors in cases involving sex crimes against underage victims. Their testimony is critical to securing a conviction, but the alleged victims and their families are understandably reluctant to weather public scrutiny and a high-profile trial indefinitely and at uncertain cost for an unknown outcome.

You might almost begin to think that’s why they target underage victims – that it’s because they make bad witnesses, and their parents don’t want to put them through a trial, and prosecutors don’t want to put them on the stand.

Woody Allen. Remember all that bullshit in Manhattan when he’s yelling at the Tony Roberts character for (ha ha HA) betraying him by going after the Diane Keaton character? There’s a bunch of guff about being decent so that people will think well of you, so that you won’t cringe at yourself, all that kind of thing.

What a joke.

H/t Gretchen Robinson


  1. says

    The bottom line is that the rich and famous have the power to do things that ordinary mortals do not. This is the way it has always been and always will be. Though one should strive as much as possible to reduce that power wherever possible. But let no one be under any illusion that everyone is equal before the law. In theory that may be but true but the reality is that soma are more equal than other. Money talks

    In cases such as this I tend to avoid any absolute pronouncements as there is a tendency after a while to generate predictable responses which can be dangerous. Though I do start out with the premise that the victim is telling the truth. Less the evidence is overwhelming and suggests otherwise that remains the natural default position. But I am perfectly capable of avoiding emotional responses towards the perpetrator. And do so too because there is no obvious benefit in it from a psychological perspective. Also I no longer am surprised at what human beings do to each other. One needs to reach that point at some time in their life. It is an excellent coping mechanism as long as one is not themselves actually emotionally involved. Though I am sad at what happens. Sad but never surprised. Not any more

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